Attorney Greg Gilbert was recently featured in an interview about estate planning, and more specifically the role of conservatorships, guardians and
Excerpts from this article by John Lundy, Families tested when conflict erupts over elders’ care, Duluth News Tribune.
As baby boomers age — with 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day and about half of those who reach age 85 experiencing Alzheimer’s or dementia — more of us are reaching a stage in life when others may have to act on our behalf. If we haven’t prepared in advance for that through estate planning, health care directives and similar tools, courts may have to step in, appointing a guardian and/or a conservator.
Either is paid through the protected person’s assets. That’s when it can get messy, especially when money is involved — but not enough money to draw the interest of for-profit entities.
…Banks can handle conservatorships, and so can family members, said Greg Gilbert, a Duluth attorney whose practice includes estate planning. “The trouble is, banks are getting out of the business; they don’t want to do it as much anymore,” Gilbert said.
If the individual’s assets aren’t sufficient for a bank or attorney, there’s a nonprofit alternative in the Duluth area: Lutheran Social Service. Of approximately 20,000 Minnesotans protected by a conservatorship, a guardianship or both, fewer than 5 percent are served by LSS, said Dan Blakley, the agency’s director of guardianship options. He didn’t have specific figures for Northeastern Minnesota. But although she described LSS as “wonderful partners for us,” Sather said the nonprofit only takes on clients with “higher asset levels.” Gilbert had a similar perspective. “They’re getting more on the side of the bank,” he said of LSS. “They’re getting larger and more bureaucratic and kind of expensive.”
‘A last resort’
Experts point out that such conflicts are the exception, not the rule, and usually can be avoided with advance planning. “Generally speaking, if a family needs a guardianship, it means their estate planning has failed,” Gilbert said. “Guardianships are a last resort.”
Considering the vast scope of Lutheran Social Service’s work — from crisis nurseries to financial counseling to disaster relief — there might be room to form a local charity to focus solely on guardianships and conservatorships, Gilbert suggested.
“I think the government has a responsibility,” he said. “But there’s also room for, I think, new charitable organizations to come in.”
Read more about Gilbert Law Office, and download forms on Estate Planning here.